Where to Go in Mexico if Tulum’s Not Your Vibe

Want to surf the waves of secluded, blonde-sand bays and feast on salsa-drenched street food alongside locals? Read on for our definitive shortlist of Mexico’s coolest lesser-known destinations

Tulum ? It can be pretty hectic - streets crammed with tourists snapping selfies for their next Insta post; beach bars louder than Soho on a Friday night. With that in mind, we've been on a Mexican adventure to bring you the lesser-trodden locations we think you'll love. Join us as we surf the waves of Troncones, feast on salsa-drenched tacos at the street-food stalls of Chetumal and recharge in style at Campeche's most glamorous guesthouse.

Mexican magic: our eight favourite lesser-known destinations


The relatively undeveloped fishing village of Troncones has far more to offer than super-fresh catch of the day. With eco-friendly hotels having slowly popped up along its coastline, the tiny town will suit those who prefer to truly lose themselves within a local lifestyle. Surfers should make a beeline for the waves of Manzanillo Bay, while others should snag a snorkel and paddle around its colourful reefs, keeping eyes peeled for baby turtles.

Where to stay: Lo Sereno

flamingos at isla holbox shore

Isla Holbox

If you ever wondered where Mexicans holidayed, this is it. Situated just off the north coast of the Yucatán peninsula, Isla Holbox is nestled within the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, home to pelicans and flamingos. Getting here isn't exactly straightforward. In fact, the only way to reach the island is via a 20-minute ferry crossing from the mainland town of Chiquilá. But those who make the journey will be well rewarded, enjoying dream days on Punta Coco Beach, among others.

Where to stay: Las Nubes de Holbox

chetumal mexico


Virtually touching Belize, the charming city of Chetumal sits on the east coast of the Yucatán peninsula. Its blonde-sand coastline is a highlight - we suggest wandering along it barefoot to discover the odd beach shack and a smattering of starfish. The local food scene is also something to write home about. Set aside time to eat your way through Mercado Municipal, where you'll find all sorts of traditional Mexican dishes, from ceviche and empanadas to machacados - a frozen drink with crushed fruit, condensed milk and shaved ice.

Where to stay: Mayan Secret

lagoon in bacalar mexico


Located less than an hour's drive from the Mexico-Belize border, the town of Bacalar makes for a nature-rich getaway. Head first to the 50km-long Lake Bacalar, also known as the Lagoon of Seven Colours, due to its many shades of blue. Beneath the surface, million-year-old reef-like microorganisms fuse with white limestone to create this surreal aqua spectacle, making for a hypnotically beautiful setting. For a true taste of the go-slow lifestyle, visit restaurant Macario Bacalar. There, you'll find a courtyard lined with rustic benches, tropical flora and palm trees. Head chef Ricardo Méndez whips up refined dishes spanning seasonal ravioli to lobster-stuffed salads. Look out for the town's long-anticipated sustainable food festival, set to debut late this year.

Where to stay: Hotel Aires Bacalar

ceramics in puebla market mexico


Mexico's fourth-largest city, Puebla has long been recognised as the birthplace of many of the country's best-loved dishes. Our order? Gorditas - corn tortillas stuffed with various meats and cheeses. With a slew of next-gen chefs and independent boutiques having set up shop here, the city's cultural scene is really taking off, though it remains virtually unexplored by tourists. If you're looking for a close-knit community, this is where you'll find it.

Where to stay: Cartesiano

colourful bunting in sayulita mexico


Situated in the south of the state of Nayarit, this sleepy fishing village is blessed with views of both the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains and the Pacific Ocean. While its colourful markets are a must for souvenir shopping, we're pegging Sayulita as Mexico's best spot for surfing. Local beaches offer waves so dramatic that renowned pros from California and Australia are beginning to make an annual pilgrimage here.

Where to stay: Avela Boutique Hotel

San Cirstobal de Las Casas

San Cristóbal de las Casas

Offering a bohemian streetscape surrounded by the lush rolling Central Highlands countryside, San Cristóbal de las Casas is the ultimate playground for adventurers. If this sounds like you, be sure to pack your hiking gear and get scaling its rugged terrain. Bikers will want to take a spin around the 6.8km-long Circuito Las Canastas trail - not one for the faint-hearted. Come sunset, make a beeline for XUT restaurant, where sugar-laced cocktail glasses and seasonal sharing plates are served in a lantern-lit courtyard.

Where to stay: Casa Lum

Campeche, Mexico


Situated in the country's south-east, Campeche has long attracted day-trippers to its sorbet-coloured streets, but its appeal has gone up a gear lately, with the refurbishment of 18th-century guesthouse Las Lupitas. Both honouring the port city's history and showcasing contemporary style, the five-key boutique is a stylish independent option. Campeche's Botanical Garden is home to narrow passageways flanked by rare tropical plants and a beautiful central fountain - the perfect spot at which to curl up with a good book. Find your seafood fix at restaurant Marganzo, whose burnt-orange facade is bordered by oyster-white columns. Inside, you'll find buttercup-yellow walls, chequered tile floors and tables topped with abstract-print cloths. The menu includes the likes of shrimp soups, cod tacos and crab salad.

Where to stay: Las Lupitas

This article was updated on 28 February 2023. It contains affiliate links, which means SUITCASE may earn a small commission if you click through and book.

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